Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Do Good Things Happen To Bad People?


            Some leading thoughts from the more commonly asked question “why do bad things happen to good people?” would serve as an introduction.

            The question “why do bad things happen to good people?” is often asked with a motive to label God as malevolent or powerless. This question presupposes that good people deserve good things, not bad things, because they haven’t done anything wrong, at least comparatively.

            However, when bad things happen to good people, the governance of our world seems bizarre. Consequently, this situation seemingly lends credence to God being either evil or powerless.

            This question apparently defends the cause of ‘good people,’ hence seems noble, in its essence. Moreover, since bad things do happen to good people, this question gains legitimacy whether its intent is to understand or undermine God.

            This question, in many instances asked by a skeptic, naturalist or a postmodern, is intended to undermine or denigrate God through the presupposition and the subsequent challenge of God’s goodness and power. But would they, with similar seriousness and intensity, ask, “why do good things happen to bad people?”

Thoughts On “Why Good Things Happen To Bad People?”

            Reasonable individuals ought to consider both sides of the coin. If we question the reality of bad things happening to good people, then the reality of good things happening to bad people need also be questioned.

            If God is considered the author of bad things happening to good people, then God should be the author of good things happening to bad people. So it is obligatory to keep God in the equation when we question good things happening to bad people.

            In its essence, the question “why do good things happen to bad people” investigates God’s love, grace and justice. In other words, only a loving and gracious God can possibly offer good things to bad people, especially when justice demands that bad people deserve bad things.

            Because the questioner exports an ardent anticipation of the justified consequence of punishment to bad people, he/she disputes the reality of good things happening to bad people as inherently unjustified. Therefore, this question, in its essence, gains ignobility.  

            Outside the theoretical deliberations of the academic domain, this question is often raised by the righteous who are suffering. Because it is unfair that the righteous suffer and the evil prosper.

            The Bible deals with prosperity of the wicked in Jeremiah 12:1-5, Psalm 37, 73, and Habakkuk. Before we move further, let us affirm the following:

            (1) All good people do not suffer. There are many good people in the world who do not undergo terrible suffering. For instance, although most of Christ’s disciples suffered gory deaths, tradition affirms that apostle John died rather peacefully. (While traditions affirm that apostle John was boiled in boiling oil, some traditions maintain that he did not suffer while being boiled. Consequently, all who witnessed this miracle were presumably converted to Christianity.)

            (2) All bad people do not prosper. There are many bad people languishing in the prisons or dead and gone.

            (3) If all good people suffer and all bad people prosper, then God’s purpose for life could be in serious jeopardy.  

            (4) So only some good people suffer and some bad people prosper.

            (5) Because not all good people suffer and not all bad people prosper, it’s reasonable to infer that God is not evil per se (intrinsically).

            (6) Because not all good people suffer and not all bad people prosper, it’s reasonable to infer that God should have a definite purpose in allowing suffering and prosperity upon certain individuals.

            (7) Moreover, because God is sovereign and because the suffering of the good and prosperity of the bad is not universal, we could legitimately infer that God chooses some good people to suffer and some bad people to proper.

            Therefore, the question “why do good things happen to bad people” should question both the purpose (why does God allow prosperity) and the choice (why God chooses ‘A’ over ‘B’) behind this existential reality.

Choice & Purpose In The Prosperity Of The Wicked

            Broadly, and not considering the moral status of people as to whether they are good or bad, we ask why God chooses some to suffer and others to prosper? Similarly, we could ask why God chose Matthew as a disciple and not another tax collector.  

            To the best of my knowledge, the Bible does not explicitly offer an answer as to why God chose Matthew and not another tax collector or why God chose Paul and not another student of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Because the Bible does not reveal the reasons behind God’s choice always, we rest the case of God’s choice on the impeccable justice, goodness and love of a sovereign God (Cf. Romans 9: 9-18).

            To rest the choice of people enjoying or suffering under various situations of good and gory on the almighty God’s sovereignty is much better than to dump this very painful existential question to randomness or its queer ramifications.

            Passages such as 1 Samuel 2: 6-7 explicitly teach that God authors poverty and prosperity. This binds precisely with God’s sovereignty, for only a sovereign or a maximally great being is supposed to and expected to author every event of life. Therefore, God’s overwhelming presence in poverty and prosperity is never in question.

            Is the sovereign God expected to inform people of every choice HE makes? In other words, should God be accountable to people? A maximally great being need not be accountable to HIS creation. Contrarily, it’s the creation that’s accountable to its creator.

            In an academic setting, the professor offers relevant knowledge to the students. In a two-year academic course, the professor, whose knowledge exceeds that of the student, offers the student relevant knowledge during the first year of the student’s academic pursuit. Then the professor offers greater knowledge to the student in the second year.

            In any case, the professor is not obligated to offer a greater knowledge than what’s expected of him and what’s expected of the student. This is analogous to God’s relationship with people.

            God is neither necessitated nor obligated to reveal or enlighten his choice(s), unless HE so determines a need to reveal in accordance with HIS omniscience. Therefore, we don’t necessarily need to know why God chooses certain people to enjoy and suffer the good and the gory, respectively.

            What’s God’s purpose in allowing good things upon bad people?

            But why shouldn’t God allow good things upon bad people? A sovereign God can do what HE desires (Romans 9: 15). The Bible teaches that the sovereign God is good, gracious, compassionate, merciful and loving. Therefore, when good things happen to bad people, it purely displays God’s grace upon the undeserving.

            Let’s think from another vantage point. If God is merely obligated to serve justice by means of meting out good to those who are good, and bad to those who are bad, then it seems to me that a well programmed robot can achieve this functionality to perfection. But a maximally great being exists to not perform the meager functions of a robot.

            In certain instances and for specific reasons, good things could be delayed to those who are good and bad things could be delayed to those who are bad. What may these specific reasons be? Let’s just, for the sake of convenience, say that the reasons are for ‘greater good’ (the greatest good being salvation).

            Consider this example from the Bible. The one who owed the king ten thousand talents was forgiven of his entire debt (Matthew 18: 23-35). This was a good thing to happen to this wicked man. The greater good, in this instance, was to teach this wicked man the art of grace and forgiveness. But this wicked man failed to learn from the goodness rendered to him, and finally received the judgment that he deserved.

            So one reason why good things happen to bad people may well be that God, by virtue of HIS graciousness, is delaying HIS judgment upon them so that they come to know, believe and love HIM.

Conclusion: Our Response

            When we ask “why do bad things happen to good people,” the questioner seems noble and God seems ignoble. Contrarily, when we ask “why do good things happen to bad people,” the role reverses, for in this instance, the questioner seems ignoble (arguing for the punishment of the wicked) and God seems noble (being favorable to the wicked).

            Because God does not change, our question neither confers nobility or ignobility upon God. The immutable reality is that God is always good.

            Since God will always be good, gracious and loving, it’s only appropriate that bad people get good things from HIM. So this question, instead of exposing an apparent aberration in God’s governance, cements HIS unconditional love for people.

            I believe in the Bible, so I see myself as a sinner or a bad person, hence this question applies to me as well. I am grateful that though I am a sinner, God’s blessings are abundant in my life. This rich experience of God’s grace motivates me to be gracious with people who hate me.  

            We also pray that those unworthy of God’s blessings would realize their unworthiness and draw closer to the life giving presence of the living God. Thus they will partake in the life giving sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ through belief in Christ, which is the ultimate good for all people. Amen. 

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